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Bathing Your Dog

It’s getting to be that time to give my dog Storm a bath, so I thought I would talk about dog bathing. As an older dog who has had many baths in his lifetime, he tolerates it without a problem. I wouldn’t say that he enjoys it, but he puts up with it.

Why do dogs dislike getting a bath so much? Storm loves to swim, but he does not like the rain all that much either. When it’s raining, he would rather stay inside and hold his potty than go out. Well, sometimes he has no choice. We put on the leash and out we go. Hey, after all, I am getting wet too.

What does the rain have to do with anything? It’s all about control. When our dogs swim, they have control of the situation. Even though the lake water is not all that clean, it is usually his idea to go in for a swim. He is having fun and just enjoying life.

However, when it rains he has no control. This is why your dog may not like his baths. It is usually our idea to bathe them, not his. Although some dogs like a bath, has your dog ever come up to you with his shampoo in his mouth, leading you to the bathtub? I don’t think so. He is not controlling the situation.

Bathing your dog in a bathtub, in a self-serve dog bathing facility, or out back with the garden hose spraying cold water on him, it wasn’t your dog’s idea and he is most likely not in his usual environment. And, he has to worry about getting sprayed in the face, and getting soap in his eyes. What an ordeal!

So, how often do I bathe Storm? He gets a bath about once every five weeks. Every four weeks would be better, but it never seems to work out that way. Should you give your dog a bath that often? It all depends on your dog. Some dogs may need baths more often than that.

Storm gets out at least three times daily, and we get pretty adventurous. He gets dirty quickly. The quicker your dog gets dirty, the more often he will need a bath. If your dog is a homebody, and only goes out briefly and stays pretty clean, he may not need a bath so often. I would say every dog needs a bath at least 4 times a year, or every three months at the least. Like I said, dirty dogs need to be bathed more often.

Another reason to bathe your dog more frequently is to control dander in the house. If you or a family member is allergic to pet dander, then a dog bath will remove that dander. For your dog, bathing can help remove any allergens that are in his coat which may be causing him to scratch and lick more frequently.

If your dog gets smelly, make sure you know where the smell is coming from. Check his ears first. If his ears are dirty then clean them. Especially for long-eared dogs, you need to keep a schedule to keep your dog’s ears clean. You should clean your dog’s ears really well about once a month. If you are not comfortable cleaning your dog’s ears, have your groomer or vet take care of it for you.

Next, check your dog’s mouth. If he has a foul odor coming from his mouth, then a dog bath won’t help. Start your dog on a schedule for brushing his teeth. If his teeth and gums are in bad shape, then take him to a vet for a good teeth cleaning. You may need to change his diet. Some food can make your dog’s mouth very smelly, but a poor quality food can also make your dog’s coat smelly. So always make sure you are feeding a good quality dog food.

If you have a long-haired dog, or a double-coated dog, check the coat to make sure there are no mats of dead hair which are trapping bacteria and causing the coat to smell. All matted hair must be removed before giving your dog a bath or you will just have the same problem. The mats of hair trap in bacteria and moisture, causing bad odors. And, matted hair can be painful for your dog as the mat tightens up and pulls on the skin.

Next, check your dog’s rear end. Trapped pieces of feces can certainly cause bad odors. Keep his rear end clean. There may be a lot of hair around that area that can trap dirt and feces. You may want to keep that area trimmed to help keep it clean.

The next big tip is to brush your dog’s coat completely and thoroughly before getting him wet. This will remove dead hair that has been shed, and you will be able to find any mats of hair that need to be removed before bathing. Brushing your dog before his bath will make your job of dog bathing much easier. Brush his entire body and make sure any mats of hair are completely removed. If you cannot remove the mats of hair, take him to the groomer or vet. A last resort would be to cut out the matted hair.

Use a specially formulated dog shampoo only. Do not use human shampoos, as a dog’s skin requires a specific pH balance, different from humans. Make sure to wet your dog’s coat completely, and soap him up. Make sure to clean the face, rear end, and feet really well. Work the shampoo well into his coat. The water temperature should be the same as you would use for a baby.

A very, very important step is to rinse your dog completely. You must get all shampoo residue out of your dog’s skin, or it will cause irritation. This includes your dog’s feet. As you rinse your dog, he stands in all of the soap runoff. Take care to rinse your dog’s feet well after all the suds are gone at the bottom of the tub.

You want to completely dry your dog off after his bath. If you leave your dog to air dry, he may get cold, unless it is very warm out. If it is cold outside, you want to leave your dog inside for a few hours. Also, you are just asking the hair to mat up as it dries. You don’t have to worry about this in short-haired breeds, but if you have a long-haired dog, you don’t want to start out with matted hair right after you’ve bathed him. Also, a wet coat can breed bacteria. You don’t want this any time, but especially after you just bathed your dog.

To really dry your dog well, you want to towel him dry as well as possible. Try to avoid twisting the hair up as you dry your dog. Brush your dog right after towel drying him. After he is towel dried and brushed, it is best to use a good quality pet hair dryer. Using a human hair dryer is not recommended, as it can get too hot for your dog’s skin. Even if your personal hair dryer has a cool setting,they are usually not strong enough to get your dog’s coat completely dry.

Make sure to end the drying cycle with another good brushing, and your dog should be happy and clean.

References:
Dogs, The Ultimate Care Guide
Bathtime, pgs.411-418

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